The bloodstain that failed to sway the jury

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The Independent Online

As prosecutors tried to prove their case against the three defendants using two blood spots and five sets of fibres found on their clothing, behind it was the knowledge that this evidence had been missed at the time of the killing.

A splash of blood on the right heel of a pair of blue Reebok trainers belonging to the younger of the two brothers was visible to the naked eye. But as staff at the government-owned Forensic Science Service (FSS) laboratory pored over clothing belonging to suspects, the fingernail-sized blood spot went unnoticed. It was only when the case was re-examined in 2004, after the acquittal of four other defendants, that the blood was seen and found to belong to Damilola. The jury was told at the most recent trial that the spot of blood, which was about the size of a fingernail, was part of a "compelling case" against the two brothers and their co-defendant, Hassan Jihad.

In a case where the Crown Prosecution Service could produce no witnesses to the stabbing, it was forced to rely on the rediscovered scientific "proof". The Old Bailey heard that the reason why the blood spot had been missed at the FSS laboratory in 2000 was not known, and need not trouble the jurors.

During the trial, Sian Hedges, the FSS technician who originally examined the shoe, agreed the blood could be seen on a photograph she had taken of the trainer. The blood spot on the trainer contained a fibre identical to those in Damilola's trousers. Red fibres identical to those from the 10-year-old's jumper were also found on the suspect's jacket. A second, tiny spot of Damilola's blood, also missed by the FSS, was found on the cuff of a sweatshirt belonging to the older brother. A blue fibre that could have come from that sweatshirt was found on the victim's jacket. Two fibres identical to Damilola's school clothes were also found on clothing belonging to Mr Jihad.

Mr Jihad said he did not know how the fibres got there but he was living in the area and took a bus each day which stopped outside Damilola's school. He also visited a friend at the time of the murder who had two brothers at the school. The defence said there would have been at least 600 sweatshirts identical to the one worn by Damilola in Peckham at the time.

When it was put to test, the jury decided that it disagreed with the prosecution's claim that the "totality" of the evidence pointed with certainty to the guilt of the defendants.